Palestine’s young elite should have a look at German history

Posted in Broader Middle East , Asia , Israel / Palestine , Peace and Conflict , Tolerance | 12-Sep-03 | Author: Hubertus Hoffmann

Ehud Barak, former Prime Minister of Israel, with WSN-Founder Dr. Hubertus Hoffmann (left)

A few days ago, when I met Ehud Barak for the first time, Israel’s most highly decorated soldier, ex-Chief of Staff and Prime Minister from 1999–2001, it became clear to me that Palestine, a young, forward-looking nation-in-the-making, has passed up a great opportunity by rejecting his offer of peace.

As a German historian I would advise Palestine’s young elite to have a look at German history:

Vaunting himself to the Germans as their savior, promising a resurgence of greatness and national pride after the loss of their Kaiser and World War I, Adolf Hitler ensnared the nation and turned out to be its gravedigger: without the least scruple he took millions of Germans with him into the grave. Has Arafat learned anything from that?

Hitler’s hatred of the Jews was unbounded, misanthropic, vile—a diabolical abyss. Nowadays, in my estimation, anyone who blows up a bus carrying women and children simply because they are Jews is about as brave as a concentration camp guard at Auschwitz. And any Palestinian who supports these cowardly murders ought to be ashamed of himself. He has lost his honor. A totalitarian concentration camp can be founded on that blood, but not a forward-looking modern state.

As a result of Hitler’s war, 15 million Germans—including my parents—were driven out of their homes in Silesia, East Prussia and Bohemia and had to seek refuge in West Germany. If I were a Palestinian today I’d have to blow up busses carrying Polish schoolkids in Wroclaw (formerly Breslau, the capital of Lower Silesia). Thank God we Germans learned a thing or two from bitter experience. Only five years later, on August 5, 1950, the Association of German Expellees ( Vertriebenenverbände) renounced “revenge and retaliation” in their charter as a sign of reconciliation and committed themselves to international understanding and political stability. Wouldn’t that be a way for Palestine to move on?

Coveting land is completely outmoded, atavistic thinking. That applies to both sides of the conflict, by the way. Land does not play a great part in power politics anymore, but know-how, industry and high-tech do. If I were a politician in Palestine, I would rather have the U.S. and the E.U. provide $300 billion in infrastructure funds for new schools, universities, industries and so on than enlarge my territory by a couple hundred square miles.

And don’t forget: those who arrange for children to be murdered abroad will handle dissenters the same way at home. Do the Palestinians really prefer to live in a new dictatorship than a cosmopolitan, pluralistic and tolerant country?